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Sunday, September 15, 2002

William Porter was invited to be a main speaker at the Annual Conference of the Serbian Association for Technology, Culture and Development at Lake Palić, Subotica in the Northern, majority Hungarian-speaking part of the country. A main purpose of the Association is to strengthen the democratic and European progress of Serbia and Montenegro. The theme of the Conference, held from 10-14 September, was to explore the role of Technology and Culture in determining Quality of Work, Products and Life.

Having been introduced by Professor Vlastimir Matejić, Conference President and host, Porter spoke of the key part that the media play influencing the behaviour of people and in stimulating leadership to take action in feeding the starving, protecting the oppressed and ensuring freedom. “I would like to make the serious point”, he said, “that criminality begins from the top of society and not from its back streets and football terraces. Many of us in senior positions have bemoaned the prevalence of violent street crime, of the petty thieving by drug users to feed their addictions and of the indiscipline of our own children. But, at the same time we have been less than honest in our firms’ financial accounting, have permitted deceptive advertising and have submitted highly imaginary expense accounts. And the worst is that we thought all this was clever, when in fact it was criminal. I personally decided to stop these malpractices and to apply complete honesty to my personal and company dealings. When we, in positions of comfort and responsibility clean up our own act we shall see a corresponding freedom from crime at all other levels of society. And I would add that we in the media have a major task in reporting crime in a balanced and non-sensational way and in inspiring our audiences to high levels of social behaviour.”

A Serbian Broadcasting Corporation Television crew interviewed Porter, who emphasised the importance of informing the people on scientific and technological issues and on the ethical implications of genetic research and applications and of environmental policy and of genetic behaviour. “The public are becoming more aware of these matters and the media can help them to express their concerns to political, diplomatic and business leadership”, he said, “Here we have an educational function in trying to ensure that the public receive accurate and non-sensational information on scientific and medical developments.

During a few days in Belgrade, the capital, Porter met a number of media and academic personalities including Radomir Licina, Chairman of DANAS, a leading national daily; Sonja Licht. President of the Open Society’s Serbian activities; Stojan Cerović, senior columnist of Vreme, an independent news weekly published throughout the Milosović period; Gordana Logar, former editor of New Borba and an early President of the Independent Journalists Association of Serbia; Professor Ivan Draganić, a world authority on Radiation; Vida Ognenović, outstanding woman writer and playwright and now the Serbian ambassador in Norway; Boris Milosavljivić, Deputy Federal Secretary for Religious Affairs and Natasza Pejić, a brilliant young journalist with the BETA News Agency. The Danas newspaper interviewed Porter for their main Sunday edition, highlighting the Sarajevo Commitment as an expression of the media’s true function.

Commenting on his visit Porter said, “I felt somewhat nervous as a Britisher returning to Serbia after many years absence and in spite of my late wife being a Yugoslav. In the event I was overwhelmed also by the warmth of welcome and by the strength of support to the ICF’s ideas. Although the economy is in difficulty and there is war damage to repair and a coat of paint is needed everywhere, there is an emerging sense of hope and a determination to rebuild.”